Business community money divided between Broome and Carter in mayor’s race

With 30 days until the primary in the Baton Rouge mayor’s race, incumbent Sharon Weston Broome—as expected—has the largest campaign war chest by far, with more than $355,000 in cash on hand, some $223,500 of which has been raised since the last campaign finance reports were due in early August.

But in the two months since then, Republican challenger and former state representative Steve Carter has raised almost as much as Broome, raking in more than $200,000 in contributions, many of which came in $5,000 chunks from Baton Rouge’s largest companies and their owners.

Carter, who started the reporting period with a little more than $18,000, currently has $200,000 on hand.

Broome and Carter lead the race in fundraising as well as in a poll released Monday by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, which showed Broome with 41% and Carter at 14%. Carter is in a close race for the runoff spot with Metro Council member Matt Watson, who had 13%. Nearly 20% of the voters are still undecided.

Though Watson is neck-in-neck with Carter in the polls, he lags far behind his fellow Republican in fundraising. Since early August, Watson has raised some $26,400 and currently has roughly $15,100 on hand.

State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, the only other Democrat in the race, has raised $38,000 since August and currently has more than $47,600 cash on hand.

Republican businessman and political newcomer Jordan Piazza, whose 4% showing in the BRAC poll will preclude him from appearing in a televised forum next week, has done considerably better in the fundraising arena, raising more than $83,000 since August. He also has loaned his campaign $28,700 and currently has $31,000 cash on hand.

Independent candidate and well-known billboard attorney E. Eric” Guirard  is delinquent in filing his 30-day (before the primary) report because his campaign did not submit the report electronically, which is required of all candidates in major elections, according to the Louisiana Ethics Administration.

The reports, which were due at midnight Monday, suggest the business community is largely divided in the race between Broome and Carter. Many of Baton Rouge’s largest engineering and construction firms have contributed to the mayor, who counts among her largest contributors Jim Bernhard and his family members. Altogether, they’ve given $20,000 to the Broome campaign so far. Remi Bonnecaze, an executive with one of Bernhard’s companies, Epic Piping, also gave $5,000, the maximum allowable amount.

But Carter has racked up considerable financial support from the industrial construction sector. Among his biggest backers is Art Favre, who, individually and through various corporate entities, has contributed $25,000 to Carter’s campaign. Todd Graves, Bodi White’s campaign fund, Eddie Rispone and Mapp Construction have all contributed the maximum $5,000 to Carter, while John Engquist and his Level Construction each contributed $2,500. Turner Industries contributed $2,000.

Piazza’s donations have come in smaller amounts but from a variety of small business owners and individuals from throughout the community. His largest contributors include: Donald Carmouche, Talbot Carmouche & Marcello law firm, Todd Graves and Gwen Graves, each of whom gave the $5,000 maximum allowable amount.

Marcelle, who works in the law offices of billboard attorney Gordon McKernan, has received some $17,500—nearly half the total she has raised since August—from McKernan’s various entities.

Noticeably absent from any of the campaign finance reports is Lane Grigsby, the PAC he controls, or his various business entities. Grigsby is often a powerful force in local elections but, so far, has remained mum about where he will be throwing his support in the mayor’s race. 

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to clarify that Lane Grigsby is no longer affiliated with Cajun Industries, the company that he founded and sold to family members and others in 2015.